“Dysfunctional” universities

Extract from an article in the Chronicle

India’s Prime Minister Assails Universities as Below Average and ‘Dysfunctional’

India’s prime minister revealed on Friday that almost two-thirds of the nation’s universities and 90 percent of its degree-granting colleges are rated as below average and that university curricula are typically not synchronized with the needs of employers or job seekers.

Earlier this month, a local newspaper disclosed details of a confidential report on Indian higher education by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. The newspaper said that the council had assessed 123 universities and 2,956 colleges across India and found that 90 percent of colleges and 68 percent of universities were of middling or poor quality — statistics that Mr. Singh confirmed in his speech.

The newspaper also said the council had found that 25 percent of faculty positions at universities remain vacant, 57 percent of teachers in colleges lack either an M.Phil. or a Ph.D., and there is only one computer for every 229 students, on average, in colleges. In India, colleges are mostly affiliated with universities and usually offer undergraduate education only.

The prime minister also sharply criticized the governance at India’s state universities, saying, “a dysfunctional education system can only produce dysfunctional future citizens.” He expressed concern that, in many states, the appointment of university officials — including vice chancellors, the chief-executive position — has been politicized. “There are complaints of favoritism and corruption,” he said. “We should free university appointments from unnecessary interventions on the part of governments and must promote autonomy and accountability.”

Elaborating on an announcement this month that the government will set up at least one central university in each of the 16 states that lack one, Mr. Singh said a total of 30 new central universities would be opened across the country.

This is reminiscent of concerns about the original 1993-95 TQA grading of “satisfactory” and comments about the new RAE descriptors possibly implying that (depending on the outcomes in 2008) much of UK university research is not of international standard.

Describing your country’s universities in this way does seem rather extreme – it is not clear to me how 30 new universities are going to solve this problem either. But at least the ambition for change is there